SYDNEY, Australia (Apr. 10)
Although there are said to be hundreds of war criminals living in Australia, speculation was rife this week that the government may soon abandon its efforts to bring them to justice.
Concern mounted following the surprise resignation of Robert Greenwood as head of the Justice Ministry’s Special Investigations Unit, set up to trace and bring charges against Nazi war criminals who have found haven in Australia.
The unit was set up under recent legislation that permits Australian courts to try alleged war criminals for offenses committed abroad.
The constitutionality of the law has been challenged in the Hugh Court. Greenwood’s announcement that he is returning to private practice as a barrister was all the more surprising in that it was made only days before the High Court is scheduled to hand down its decision.
Greenwood’s contract would not have expired for three months.
He has been replaced as unit director by his former deputy, Graham Blewitt. Blewitt denied that either the court challenge or criticism of the unit’s performance was responsible for Greenwood’s resignation.
The Australian media have accused the investigations unit of failing to bring charges against any significant number of war crime suspects.
The opposition in Parliament has charged that the $10.5 million spent so far has produced “no real result.”
Blewitt said in a radio interview that there are hundreds of war criminals living in Australia. But investigating them is very complicated, and evidence is not readily available, he said.
So far, 11 cases await a decision by the government whether or not to prosecute.
In New Zealand, meanwhile, Attorney General Paul East said four of eight people whom the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center alleged to be war criminals have been cleared following inquiries.